Quechua back in the groove
Le Grange's champion stayer wins third Group 1 by capturing the Queen Elizabeth II Cup
QUECHUA, the horse who has raced in the highest order including two unsuccessful attempts abroad, returned to the winner's rostrum yesterday by capturing the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in style.
It was the Avengers Stable-owned six-year-old's third Group 1 success, after the 2014 Longines Singapore Gold Cup (2,200m) and 2015 Emirates Singapore Derby (2,000m) when trained by Patrick Shaw.
Yesterday's victory provided Shaw's assistant Ricardo Le Grange his first Group 1 win since he branched out on his own this year after being granted a licence late last year when his mentor took a sabbatical.
Quechua managed to secure a handy fifth spot behind the leader and last year's winner Laughing Gravy after jumping from pole position.
Laughing Gravy, who led by two lengths after settling down, was nicely clear in the straight from trainer Stephen Gray's pair of Twickenham and Newlands. Leading jockey Vlad Duric angled Quechua out for a clear run in the straight and his mount accelerated to race past Laughing Gravy 250m out and win by two lengths.
Laughing Gravy held on by a nose to beat Quechua's stablemate Storm Troops for second.
The QE II Cup was run over 1,800m yesterday. It was inaugurated in 1972 with Queen Elizabeth II's state visit to Singapore as an 11-furlong (2,200m) race and the distance was shortened to 2,000m from 1983 until last year.
It was Duric's first ride on Quechua and it was also his first QE II Cup triumph.
"I've been riding him in his gallops and his trial leading up to his race today but I've never ridden him in a race. But all indications were, you know, he's in really good touch," said the Australian.
"And, once you've drawn a really good marble, you just give him a nice ride and just need a bit of luck, which I got in the corner, and he just felt like he was going to win the race once he got out.
"I just want to say what a great horse he is, you know, he has won just about every feature race here in Singapore. He's just a wonderful horse, so it's great to be part of his career."
Quechua's eight previous victories, including the Group 2 Chairman's Trophy (1,800m), Group 3 Fortune Bowl (2,000m) and Group 3 New Year Cup (Polytrack 1,900m), were all ridden by former Kranji-based jockey Corey Brown.
Quechua's last win, the Chairman's Trophy, was in August last year and he had gone through a sequence of eight losing runs, including the International Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2,400m) last December and the International Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup (3,200m) at Meydan last start in March.
It was certainly a training feat by Le Grange to score first-up with Quechua after coming back from a gruelling 3,200m race in just over two months.
"Phew, it hasn't settled in yet," said the smiling South African.
"But, towards the end of last year, I said to Patrick, two races we haven't won, which were the QE II and the Raffles Cup, and I promise I'll win them for you.
"So, it's emotional. It's just an honour to be associated with a horse like him."
The decision to add blinkers and a tongue tie was also praiseworthy, indeed.
"In Dubai, Patrick said to me one morning he heard him making a bit of a noise, try a tongue tie on him, and we always have in the back of our minds to put the blinkers," said Le Grange.
"But he was running so well, you know, winning Group 1 races, and I then thought maybe give him a bit of a wake-up and, it has all come together now. It's my first Group 1 and I'll never forget."